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Ephraim E. Lisitzky

LISITZKY, EPHRAIM E. (1885–1962), U.S. Hebrew poet and educator. Born in Minsk, he immigrated to the United States at the age of 15. In 1918, after peregrinations which took him to Boston, New York, Central Canada, Buffalo, and Milwaukee, he finally settled in New Orleans, where he spent the rest of his life. He became principal of the city's Hebrew School, one of the best in the United States.

Lisitzky was a prolific Hebrew poet. Though not marked by originality, he made lasting contributions to the thematic wealth of Hebrew literature. Medurot Do'akhot ("Dying Campfires," 1937), a story of two Indian tribes, is based on Indian legends and contains fine descriptions of the American landscape. It is written in the unrhymed trochaic tetrameter of Hiawatha and Kalevala. Out of black folktales and folk songs, sermons and spirituals, habits and customs, he composed Be-Oholei Kush ("In the Tents of Cush," 1953). In his narrative poem Ki-Teko'a Shofar (1922) he contrasts the spiritual aridity of the small town American Jew with the deep religiosity of Eastern European Jewry (Shirim (1928), 241–80). His dramatic poem Naftulei Elohim (1934), despite some happy phrases, must be considered a failure, overburdened with the poet's mythological inventions and with Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Buddhist doctrine. Similarly unsuccessful is Bi-Ymei Sho'ah u-Mesho'ah (1960), which deals with the European Holocaust. Lisitzky's occasional articles on literature and educational matters in the Hebrew press were collected in his book, Bi-Shevilei Ḥayyim ve-Sifrut (1961). Lisitzky's reputation will ultimately rest on his moving autobiography Elleh Toledot Adam (1949; In the Grip of Cross-Currents, 1959), his book of black poems, and his Indian epic.


A. Epstein, Soferim Ivrim ba-Amerikah, 1 (1952), 39–65; Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 1063–65; Silberschlag, in: JBA, 21 (1963/64), 66–71. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Meirovitch, "Li-Demuto ha-Ḥinukhit shel E. Lisitzky," in: Bi-Sdeh Ḥemed, 32 (1972), 235-39; S. Katz, "To Be as Others: E.E. Lisitzky's Re-Presentations of Native Americans," in: Hebrew Union College Annual, 73 (2002), 249-97.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.